Target 3 Water Woes: Every Drop Counts Part 2

Wichita Falls public works officials have two projects in the works to provide the city with more H2O, but the water they plan to use is actually what some would consider an unlikely source.

Oil used to be Texoma's most valued liquid asset, but now it is water.

Once taken for granted, water is now collected, reused and stored like any valuable commodity.

And just like other commodities, the scarcer it gets the more expensive it gets.

Low lake levels, lack of rainfall and scorching temperatures for three consecutive years have Wichita Falls City officials working to pump more water back into the system.

And they say the easiest and most obvious way way to do that is by sending our treated waste water, that now goes down the Red River, back into the system for additional treatment.

The first phase is the Emergency Reuse Water Project, which will consist of a temporary above ground pipeline from the River Road Waste Water Plant to the Cypress Water Treatment Plant.

"We're standing at the chlorine contact basin. This is the point that the water would leave the River Road plant and head to the Cypress Water Treatment Plant," explains Harrold Burris, Wichita Falls Waste Water Treatment supervisor.

At the Cypress plant, the water would go through additional treatments.

"The water would then be treated through the micro-filtration reverse osmosis treatment plant. It's then blended with raw surface water from Lake Arrowhead and Kickapoo on a 50/50 blend ratio. We take that water and treat it one more time by conventional means... that being through the Cypress 2010 plant. That water, in essence would be treated four times," says Russell Schreiber, public works director for the City of Wichita Falls.

And after the fourth treatment, that water would then start flowing out of faucets.

Preliminary plans on this temporary project started last year but before that project can start it has to get the go-ahead from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

"We have every reason to believe at this point the TECQ is going to approve that project and we see that obviously as a positive," Schreiber says.

A positive that's dependent on a lake that is more than 10 miles away.

When the temporary pipeline is replaced with a permanent one it will take the water directly into Lake Arrowhead from River Road.

Although Lake Arrowhead is low it plays a crucial role in supplying the City of Wichita Falls with more water, but accomplishing that goal will take 12 miles of pipeline.

The emergency project is estimated to cost $13 million.

Six million of that would fund the construction of the pipeline and the same pipes would be used in the permanent reuse project.

The Permanent Reuse Project would use this lake to store treated waste water, which requires a discharge permit from the TCEQ to establish the quality of the waste water going into the lake.

"There will be modeling completed as part of the permitting process to analyze the impacts of the effluent on the lake at different lake levels. Obviously, when the lake levels are 30%, if you put 10 million gallons of water a day in there it has more of an impact on the water quality than say if the lakes were 90% full. So, all that gets modeled so we make sure that we do not impact the water quality in that lake in any way, shape or form," Schreiber says.

Other necessary factors that are currently in the works for the Permanent Reuse Project include the city drawing up an engineering agreement to analyze the impact of different levels of treated effluent on Lake Arrowhead as well as acquiring about 15 miles of right-of-way for the pipeline and pump station.

"Once the permit is issued by the TCEQ we will know what perimeters and additional treatment we will need to implement at the Waste Water plants. We will then issue a design contract for those improvements.. at the waste water plant... likely to remove the nutrients from the water," says Schreiber.

Shreiber says the permanent project would cost about $30 million.

If approved the TCEQ it is not expected to provide additional water for the city for at least four years.

That is why officials say getting the Emergency Reuse Project underway is so important.

"No one is more concerned about the safety of the water than the City of Wichita Falls. If this was not a viable, safe drinking water we would not even be proposing the project. The water will be 100% safe to drink," Schreiber says.

Public Works officials hope to soon have TCEQ approval on the Emergency Reuse Project but officials say once the green light is received and construction is finished, as a safety precaution, the water still has to be tested for more than a month before it is distributed to homes and businesses.

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